Olivia Chow on Public Transit and Ecojustice on AbitibiBowater

This week on Terra Informa we speak to Olivia Chow, the federal New Democrat’s Transit Critic, about her efforts to implement a national public transit strategy. We also talk to environmental NGO Ecojustice about a case before the supreme court that could have major implications for whether insolvent companies are able to use creditor protection to avoid their environmental responsibilities. Tune in to find out more!

Download this week’s show.

A SkyTrain pulls in to Rupert Station in Vancouver. Photo by PoYang (博仰).

Canada is the only G8 country without a national public transit strategy. Canada’s big city mayors have been calling for such a strategy since 2007. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Canadian Urban Transit Association, Canadian Construction Association and Canadian Chamber of Commerce support a National Public Transit Strategy.  Federal New Democrats are proposing legislation that would coordinate between all levels of government to maintain and expand public transit across Canada. If passed, Bill C-305, the National Public Transit Strategy Act, would bring together the Minister of Transportation, with provincial transportation ministers, representatives of municipalities, transit authorities, and Aboriginal communities to design and establish a national public transit strategy.  Terra Informa correspondent Kathryn Lennon speaks with Olivia Chow, Member of Parliament for Trinity-Spadina and New Democrat Transit Critic, about the proposed National Public Transit Strategy Act.

More on this story: Torontoist

In central Newfoundland, residents of Grand Falls-Windsor have been waiting years for the clean up of the town’s defunct pulp and paper mill. It’s owner, the Quebec-based multinational AbitibiBowater, filed for creditor protection in 2009. The Newfoundland government has since ordered the forest products giant to clean up the mill site, and several other locations in the province. But AbitibiBowater says that the government’s environmental remediation order amounts to a financial claim, meaning that they need to get in line with other creditors who are owed money. The case is now before the Supreme Court of Canada, and lawyers from the environmental NGO Ecojustice are hoping it will set a precedent, preventing corporations from using creditor protection to avoid their environmental responsibilities. For more on the story, Steve Andersen spoke with Will Amos, Director of the Ecojustice Clinic at the University of Ottawa.

More on this story: CBC News, Resolute Forest Products (formerly AbitibiBowater)


Kyoto Protocol: Last Saturday hundreds of protestors gathered in Montreal to call on the Conservative Canadian government to respect the Kyoto Protocol.  This following Canada’s national statement delivered by Environment Minister Peter Kent at the UN Climate Talks in Durban, South Africa on December 7th. Kent, said “Kyoto, for Canada, is in the past” and urged instead that countries focus on inking a new agreement that would apply to all the world’s big polluters.

More on this story: Peter Kent’s Speech, Winnipeg Free Press, Politico

Hydropower: Emera Inc, a privately owned Nova Scotia energy company, has filed a request with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Environment and Conservation to review their proposed subsea link that would carry hydropower from Newfoundland and Labrador to Nova Scotia, 180 km across the Cabot Strait. The subsea link is tied into the Muskrat Falls Hydroelectric project, which has stirred controversy because of its potential to boost electricity rates as a consequence of the high construction cost estimates associated with the project.

More on this story: CTV, CBC, The Chronicle Herald

Joslyn North Oil Sands Mine: Last week Ottawa approved the Joslyn North oil sands mine, making it the 11th oil sands mine with approval to operate in Alberta. According to the NGO Environmental Defence, the mine will release 1 and a half million tonnes of greenhouse gas pollution each year, equivalent to adding 270,000 cars to Canadian roads. The mine is scheduled to open in 2017 and should yield 100,000 barrels of bitumen per day.

More on this story: Vancouver Sun, CBC

EPA links fracking to tainted water: For the first time, an EPA study has tied contamination in drinking water to an advanced drilling technique commonly known as “fracking.” Chemicals used to hydraulically fracture rocks in drilling for natural gas in a remote valley in central Wyoming are the likely cause of contaminated local water supplies according to federal regulators. EPA scientists found high levels of benzene, a known carcinogen, and synthetic glycol and alcohol, commonly found in hydraulic fracturing fluid. The suite of chemicals found in two test wells drilled at the site, the report said, could not be explained entirely by natural processes.

More on this story: New York Times, Houston Chronicle, NPR

Pine-beetle salvage leave a legacy of environmental damage: The B.C. government estimates that of the 2.3-billion cubic metres of merchantable lodgepole pine in the province, the mountain pine beetle have claimed 726-million cubic metres. Salvage logging of those beetle-killed forests, which not only clears out the pine beetle deadwood but also living pines, has resulted in vast clear-cuts in the province’s interior with dire consequences. A recent investigation by the Vancouver Sun shows that large-scale salvage logging in BC’s pine beetle-ravaged forests has had wide-ranging negative environmental impacts that extend well beyond the death of pine trees due to the beetle’s attack. Salvage logging has hammered biodiversity on the landscape according to the report, affecting everything from smaller predators to plants and fungi, which play a critical role in transferring nutrients to trees.

More on this story: Postmedia News, Vancouver Sun

Enviro claims for farmed fish don’t stand up: A study released this week by the University of Victoria’s Seafood Ecology Research Group found that most eco-labels on farmed seafood do not reflect better fish farming practices than other products on the market. Now that half of the seafood consumed around the world comes from aquaculture, a number of environmental concerns are emerging from these farms – from overuse of antibiotics, to pollution, to sources of fish feed. Lead author and marine ecologist John Volpe chose 20 different sets of standards, or labels, for 11 farmed marine fish and graded them using the Global Aquaculture Performance Index. The majority of labels scored less than 10 percent higher than their conventional counterparts.

More on this story: NPR, Earth Times, Mainstreet.   Full report here.

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